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Beating Egg Whites Into Submission

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have a recipe for Meringue Cookies that I found online and have been dying to try...which I did last night. The recipe calls for 6 egg whites, 1½ C sugar and ½ t vanilla and an option to add 2 t instant coffee or instant flavored coffee (like Cappuccino, Mocha, etc.) for flavoring. It says to begin to beat the egg whites with a hand mixer on HIGH and slowly add the sugar, vanilla and flavoring and beat until soft glossy peaks form. I have beaten egg whites before (but not for meringue) and it only took a few minutes for them to get fluffy. Last night I ran the mixer on HIGH for 20 minutes and the egg whites were still runny...never stiffening at all. I referred to my only 2 cookbooks (Better Homes and Garden and Betty Crocker) and they both gave basically the same instructions for beating egg whites...except for the Betty Crocker cookbook which said to use a metal or glass mixing bowl and to NEVER use plastic. Since that was the first time I had seen that piece of information I had used a plastic mixing bowl. I transferred the mixture into a glass bowl and tried again but after 10 more minutes they were still runny....they hadn't even thickened even a little. Since I don't have Martha Stewart on speed dial....wink.giflol.gif.....I need some help.


Is there anyway of salvaging the egg white mixture? And...if not....what did I do wrong so that when I buy more eggs and sugar, etc....I don't have the same problem (I can't afford to waste 6 more eggs, etc.)?

post #2 of 7

If any oil or fat get into the egg white, they will stop it foaming.  I think the problem with plastic bowls is that it's hard to completely clean oil or fat off their surfaces.  Anyway, If any oil or fat got into the whites, moving to a new bowl won't help -- you need to start fresh.


I use a metal bowl and metal whisk, partly because they're easy to clean right beforehand with hot water and a tiny squirt of soap.  Rinse well, though, because detergent is also bad for egg whites.  If you want to use your mixer, just be sure it's ultra-clean and that you haven't gotten any yolk in the whites.


Meringues are fun, especially for kids: if you have a pastry bag you can pipe them into shapes.



post #3 of 7

I was recently watching a food show where they made meringue, forgive me I don't remember the name of it.  The chef said the fool proof way to get a nice meringue is to add the egg whites one at a time while it's mixing.  I have not tried this method out so I cannot attest to its validity but it may be worth a try in addition to following other advice.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #4 of 7

In addition to a scrupulously clean bowl, try adding a pinch each of salt and cream of tarter.


With a clean bowl, and whisking by hand, it should't take ten minutes, let alone 20 with an electric mixer. There's no doubt in my mind that that's where the problem lay---grease on the bowl.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #5 of 7

Sometimes it's the weather, sometimes a little grease in the bowl, sometimes the wrong whisk, sometimes they need a little acid (as in cream of tartar), sometimes you let a tiny bit of yolk get in, sometimes...


Egg whites can be very temperamental.  Without knowing exactly what you did, how old your eggs are, etc., it's impossible to tell you for certain what went wrong.  Frequently, it's the weather.  Too much humidity or electricity can thwart a meringue.


Your best whites will come from a copper bowl wiped with vinegar, and whisking by hand with a big balloon whisk.  Glass and stainless bowls are safer and surer than most plastics, and will likely give you greater volume -- but plenty of plastic bowls work perfectly well. 


Directions to use any particular type of beater may be safely ignored, and the electric hand mixer from the recipe could be replaced with a stand mixer, hand whisk (preferably a wire tine, balloon shape), or whatever is best and easiest for you.  The beater was a suggestion, not a commandment.


Always put a little vinegar in your bowl, then wipe it out completely with a dry towel before adding your egg whites.  This will break down and wipe away any residual fat clinging to the bowl. 


If you're using an electric beater/mixer always break the whites down at a fairly low speed before adding the sugar, beating it in, and cranking the speed up to get meringue.  Adding a little cream of tartar at the same time as the sugar, will help your whites come to and go through the peak stages quicker, and will also help them hold up longer.



Edited by boar_d_laze - 11/7/11 at 6:54am
post #6 of 7

I learned this trick a while ago and it never fails, given there's not one touch of eggyolk in the whites;

(I use a large glass or metal bowl, never a plastic one)


Put a good tbsp of plain white vinegar in the bowl and wipe the whole inner surface of the bowl, using a piece of kitchen paper towel. Do the same with your whisk!

Rince under tapwater and dry with a fresh piece of paper towel. That's it!

post #7 of 7


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